Google Effect and Digital Amnesia – How Technology is Influencing our Mind

Nowadays when we don’t know the answer to something or if we are not sure and want to verify the information, we simply Google it. This is really helpful, useful, and responsible, however, it has certain flaws. We are all aware that we strongly rely on technology to help us with our everyday lives, but could technology impact our ability to learn in a negative way? Well, it’s hard to say but there are some strange phenomena occurring, as a result of this overreliance. 

Google effect and digital amnesia are two very similar things that have become quite prevalent over the past decade. Our phones are basically micro-computers, and we use them to browse the web, check information and store information. They are like an extension of our brain, and they are the number one cause of both Google effect and digital amnesia. Here we will explain those two terms and why they occur.

Google effect

Have you ever googled something that you wanted to know, only to forget it shortly afterwards? Do you also use Google to remind yourself, or double-check your facts? Maybe you have a better memory of the site where you found the information rather than the information itself? If some of these things sound familiar then you have probably experienced the Google effect. 

When we were in school and learning history we kind of drilled some of the information in our head to make sure we don’t forget it for the test. We were trying to tell our brain that what we are learning is important and instead of storing it in a short-term memory it should be in long-term memory. However, with Google readily available we are not trying to commit something to a long term memory, in fact, we know it’s readily available and as a result, the importance of knowing is diminished. 

You might google how to fix a bug on your PC or phone, but you certainly will consult Google again if it happens, whereas before we had access to the internet we were more likely to learn how to do those things ourselves. 

Digital Amnesia

This is very similar to the google effect, the only difference is the type of information that we are forgetting. For example, we are likely to forget someone’s phone number as soon as we save it because we know the information is now readily available in our phone. Appointments, alarm clocks, shopping lists, etc. This is all now stored in our smartphones and even though we used notes in the past for those things we did not have a notification sound to tell us to check those notes. It’s like all of these minor things that we can save in our phones are not discarded by the brain, as if it’s no longer its job to remember them, 

What does this mean

This means that if we know the information is readily available we are less likely to commit to memory. Unfortunately, this can impair our ability to effectively store the information we learn online. In fact, you might find that you are more successful memorizing things that you are reading in a book, than if you read them on the website. Your brain won’t have much problem knowing where to find the information, but it might have problems recalling that information accurately.